Intended for healthcare professionals


Overweight and obesity in China

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 17 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:362
  1. Yangfeng Wu, professor and chief (
  1. Department of Epidemiology, Cardiovascular Institute and Fu Wai Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, #167, Beilishilu, Xicheng, Beijing 100037, People's Republic of China

    The once lean giant has a weight problem that is increasing rapidly

    About one fifth of the one billion overweight or obese people in the world are Chinese. China was once considered to have one of the leanest populations,1 but it is fast catching up with the West in terms of the prevalence of overweight and obesity; disturbingly, this transition has occurred in a remarkably short time.2

    Data from the 2002 national nutrition and health survey showed that 14.7% of Chinese were overweight (body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) ≥ 25) and another 2.6% were obese (BMI ≥ 30), such that there are currently (2002) 184 million overweight people, and a further 31 million obese people, in China, out of a total population of 1.3 billion (table).3 Although the prevalence of obesity in China is relatively low compared with Western countries such as the United States, where over half of adults are either overweight or obese, it is the rapid increase of the condition,4 especially among children, that is particularly alarming. Data from the China national surveys on the constitution and health in school children …

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